Title: Hitori jya nai [1/1]
Author: Kikiam-sama
Rating: G
Description: Can somebody find happiness in being alone for all of his life? Or maybe he can wish for it on his birthday...


Disclaimer: Slam Dunk belongs to Takehiko Inoue. The characters are only being used for fun. No profit is being earned. Please don't sue me.

A/N: A Kaede Rukawa birthday ficcie. Hitori jya nai means 'not alone'. That's all. RuHaru again.


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"So, 'hope to see you later, then. Bye!"

I hung up the phone and sighed. The call was from Ayako, inviting me to a small New Year's party at the Shohoku High School Gym. I scratched my head, trying to decide if I should come or not. There weren't much problems, to be honest. I had nothing to do that afternoon. There wouldn't be much harm if I'd go. I'd just be hanging out with them, eat a bit probably and look at some fireworks, but then...

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"Be careful with that, Hanamichi Sakuragi!" Ayako warned as Sakuragi held one of the fireworks with his hands.

"No problem, Ayako-san!"

"Don't you dare make Aya-chan worry!"

Sakuragi went on holding the fireworks and ran. He didn't notice that the fuse was about to explode. After a few minutes, a loud bang was heard, and his face became all covered with soot. Everyone laughed, except for me.

It was indeed a celebration. There were only fifteen of us in the place, and yet, bangs of fireworks filled the air. The smell of food from inside the gym wafted across my nose. The general cheerful mood would make anyone feel that he was attending a party for the whole of Kanagawa, instead of a small basketball varsity. I stood out, however. While Mitsui-sempai and

Miyagi-sempai took care of the fireworks, I sat down on a large rock a few meters from the place. They knew I was there, but I guess they knew better not to force me into the celebration.

They just left me alone.

//Alone...//

"Here, Sensei, I cooked that myself."

"That probably has some sissy powder, oyaji. Don't eat it."

"Ohohohohohoho..."

//Alone...//

I always felt alone. Never have I sensed companionship with other people. I have no idea why I've come to think or feel this way. I grew up in a normal family, and I'm the only one different, rather, indifferent. Since I was a kid, I refused to make much friends, and I always kept to myself. When kids my age played together with a seesaw, I sat alone on a swing by myself. They tried to invite me, but I always refused. My parents were worried at first, thinking that I had some sort of psychological problem, then they dismissed it as being shy or something.

//Until...//

I was six years old, then. I was alone in school by the playground. I was waiting for my older sister to fetch me. Everybody else had gone home, or so I thought. Everything was quiet, except for the wind and the birds chirping. Even at such a young age, I felt enjoyment in solitude. Being alone was such a wonderful feeling for me, I didn't and don't know why.

//...//

"Want to play? Nobody's using the swings," a small voice suddenly called from behind me. I almost jumped in surprise, but managed to hide it and looked at the owner of the small voice.

I never saw her before, and I think she didn't know me, too. But still, she smiled warmly at me, and her voice was cheerful and friendly, as if we'd known each other all this time. Her outsetrtched hand was offering me to enjoy the afternoon with her. For some strange reason, I took her hand, and followed her. But I didn't let go//

I never felt such warmth in my life. It was a new kind of feeling, totally different from what I've felt before. I felt a sudden attachment to her, although there wasn't anyhting really special about her. Except for her warmth...

"Here," she told me and then sat on the other end of the seesaw. I was forced to let go of her hand, yet I still felt it. I sat on the other end, then we played. She was screaming in joy, while I kept quiet and looked at her with a small smile on my face, barely noticeable. Before I knew it, though, the small smile on my face grew bigger and bigger.

"Hey, you're smiling now," she said. The seesaw slowed down.

I looked at her in surprise and then realized that she was right.

"That's good," she said. "My mom always told me to always smile, especially if you're with somebody, because it makes them feel like smiling, too."

I merely nodded.

"I'm glad I was able to make you smile, anyway." She then pushed on her seat.

//She's glad she she was able to make me smile?// I asked myself back then. I realized that I never smiled when I was alone, which was most of the time. I smiled only on rare occasions wherein my

innocence as a child took over. But then, when I smiled, I was always with somebody. Maybe my siblings or my parents. Does that mean that I am happy when I'm not alone? If so, then why do I feel so good when I'm all by myself?

"Hey, you stopped smiling," she looked at me worriedly.

I looked up at her, then hung my head. I was confused. I couldn't understand what I was feeling then. Being with her felt so good, but I was afraid to admit that it even felt better than being alone. In fact, the best feeling I've ever felt. I pushed down on my seat and tried to continue playing to push it out of my mind.

I looked at her again. She was still smiling. She looked at me. Why should I hesitate, then? I smiled, too, and we continued to play until my sister arrived.

I didn't want to leave, but I had to. When I left, she stayed there and continued to play, smiling. I was already walking away with my sister, but my head and my gaze was turned towards her, looking at her, longing. I wanted to feel that warmth again, forever.

//So this is how it feels to be with somebody... Not alone... //

I never saw her again. I tried to feel the same with other people, to feel that same warmth, but then I failed. I searched and searched, however, I ended up with nothing. So many people offered their warmth to me, but I wasn't looking for theirs. I wanted that girl's warmth, her smile, her voice. In my search for this warmth, I grew even more alone. I kept myself from others even more. I became cold and indifferent. I didn't want to be with anybody, except for her. I covered myself with a shell that I thought will protect me.

I'll find her, I know.

Until then, I'm all alone.

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"Ayako-saaannn!!! This tastes so good."

"I'm glad you liked it."

"Anything tastes good to you, Sakuragi."

"But Aya-chan's cooking does taste good, Mitsui-san!"

I gazed at the sky, watching the fireworks as I heard them start eating. I sat alone on the rock. I'll come there later, when not much people are at the food table anymore. I sighed. I was still alone. Whenever I felt alone, I recalled her face in my mind.

This time, however, all I could see was a blur. It was like a painter's pallette all messed up with different colrors of paint, but of no definite meaning. It was all so sudden. I could always recall her face until now. How could I suddenly forget it?

My heart started to beat faster. This was impossible. This couldn't happen. Then why is this happening now? No way...

//How can I find her now that I couldn't even remeber how she looks like?//

//Shit.//

I rummaged through my thoughts and my memories, and tried to put the pieces together. I remembered that day, in every single detail, except for her face. Does this mean I'll never find her again? Will I never feel that warmth once more? Will I remain alone forever? I still enjoyed being alone, but will I never find a break from all this loneliness? For once, I want to be happy, and I want to be happy with her.

"Rukawa-kun?"

I looked up. I became so buried in my thoughts that I didn't notice somebody approach me. I was jolted back to reality and my thoughts were once again filled by the present. The blurry face disappeared and was replaced by the evening scenery.

"..."

She smiled at me.

I suddenly felt a stab. There was something so familiar about her, her smile and her voice. I never noticed it before, but could it be...?

"Haruko-chan!" Ayako called from near the gym. "Ah, Rukawa, it's time to eat."

I nodded and went there, trailing behind her with a question in my mind. Could that girl be //her//?

"So, you're finally here, Kitsune," Sakuragi welcomed me sarcastically with a smirk.

"Doaho..." I muttered.

"Come, join us, Rukawa," Mitsui invited. I really wasn't listening to him. I was looking around for her, I wanted to make sure if she was the one I was looking for her. It was possible, but how come I failed to notice all this time?

Ayako suddenly clapped her hands. "I remember something. It's Rukawa's birthday today!"

"Oh, really? Why aren't you telling us?"

"Hey, this calls for a celebration!"

"Duh, we're already celebrating."

"Wow, what a cute birthdate."

"Yo, happy birthday, Rukawa."

"Right! Happy Birthday! Let's sing a song!"

"How childish!"

"Oh, please."

"Ohohohohohohooh!"

"Ah? No candles?"

"I know, let him blow on the fireworks, then bye-bye, Kitsune! Nyahahahahahaha!!!"

"Shut up, egghead!"

Now what? They were all fussing about me and my birthday. I hate it when a lot of people fuss about me.

"Come on here, Rukawa. You can't celebrate your birthday all by yourself, can you?"

Ayako was right, and so were everybody else. Well, except for the part on blowing on the fireworks. That doaho...

Everybody was inside the gym, but I trailed behind until I was the only one outside. Even if I knew I couldn't celebrate my birthday alone, I needed time to think//

"Rukawa-kun, come on inside."

I looked at //her//, she was calling me.

//Want to play? Nobody's using the swings.//

//At last...//

I walked faster. to the gym. I finally found her. After years of searching, I finally saw that smile again, I finally heard that voice once more and I felt that warmth. I was stupid enough not to notice it all this time. But then, there was still time. This wasn't the time for regrets.

The warmth wasn't only with her, it was with everybody else. For the first time, I felt comapnionship towards my teammates, and for everyone else. But then, she was the one who made me feel warmth in being with somebody. I realized that being alone was good, but not being alone is better. There are just times when you have to be all by yourself, but that is all. Laughing, talking, crying and feeling with people, that was the best...

I'm not ready for a sudden change, yet. But I know I'll be able to feel the way they do soon enough.

//Boku wa hitori jya nai...//

~Owari~
kikiam.09.01.02.12.05.00
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